Just like so many people do at the start of a new year, Food Bank of the Rockies is also using this time of renewal and excitement to outline some 2024 “resolutions,” if you will. Across our programs and departments, our staff is hard at work brainstorming ways to more efficiently and effectively support our communities with the food necessary to thrive. Join us in looking ahead to the new year with hope and anticipation, knowing that, thanks to your support, Food Bank of the Rockies will be able to nourish our neighbors experiencing hunger.
Everyday Eats (formerly known as EverGreen Boxes™)
In 2023, we served a record number of Everyday Eats clients: income-qualifying individuals at least 60 years of age. We will continue to reach as many older adults with this program as possible in 2024 and specifically focus on outreach initiatives in Clear Creek, Eagle, and Elbert counties to reach more neighbors in rural communities. Everyday Eats is also known as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) and is administered at the federal level by the USDA. Click here to learn more about this program.
Understanding Barriers to Food Access
Thanks to the USDA’s TEFAP Reach and Resiliency Grant, we will continue our efforts to map and understand service gaps and barriers to emergency food access in the counties we support. In 2024, we will be onboarding agencies to address service gaps, such as a lack of food distributions easily reached by public transportation and communities where affordable, nourishing food is hard to access, identified in Arapahoe, Park, Elbert, and Moffat Counties, and will be replicating research efforts in Adams, Yuma, Logan, Phillips, and Washington Counties. Click here to learn more about TEFAP and other government-funded programs.
Culturally Responsive Food Initiative
Newly Arrived Neighbors Emergency Response
The Culturally Responsive Team has been coordinating Food Bank of the Rockies’ collaboration with Hunger Relief Partners and government agencies to respond to the increasing arrival of individuals and families from the southern border. In 2024, we will continue to respond to the needs of our newly arrived neighbors through our Hunger Relief Partners, emergency-relief food bags, and targeted food distributions.
We are looking forward to expanding access to inclusive best practices in hunger relief through the launch of our newly developed Building Belonging online curriculum. This training course will be available to our partners to support them in addressing barriers to hunger relief experienced by various communities, including immigrant, refugee, Native, and communities of color; people with mobility or transportation limitations; older adults; people whose first language is not English; and more. Building Belonging participants will be supported with access to a resource library of equipment and capacity grants to use to better understand their communities’ unique food preferences and support language access.
Having recently concluded its first year, goals for our Healthcare Program include continuing to build new partnerships with additional healthcare providers in the Denver metro area to make food more accessible to people experiencing food insecurity and to support the health of our communities. The Healthcare Program provides weekly, nutritionally tailored boxes of food to people who have been diagnosed with certain medical conditions and screen positive for food insecurity. We hope to increase the number of program participants, build upon the current model by providing virtual nutrition education classes with cooking demonstrations, and expand the amount of culturally diverse foods available in 2024.
Our Nutrition Team will be working to implement Healthy Eating Research guidelines by rolling out metrics to assess the nutritional quality of the food we distribute and identify strengths and opportunities to equitably distribute nutritious food in communities. Over the year, we plan to label foods available to our partners using these guidelines to increase transparency around food ordering and support partners in meeting neighbors where they are. Click here to learn more about our Nutrition Program.
Goals involving our volunteers include continuing our growth trend with volunteers at our Denver, Western Slope, and Wyoming distribution centers, providing quality experiences and expanded opportunities for volunteers, and growing volunteer opportunities with the Mobile Pantry Program and other community-facing opportunities.
We will do this by viewing the volunteer experience holistically and inviting external feedback for improvements to ensure that every volunteer opportunity is meaningful and tied directly to our mission. In 2024, we are also striving to engage younger volunteers through volunteer events specifically for young professionals and emerging leaders, and engage more with our Mobile Pantry Site Coordinators to support future volunteerism to meet the increasing need for food in our communities.
Food Bank of the Rockies has always been dedicated to sustainability and will continue to strengthen our commitment to eco-friendly practices by bolstering programs such as shrink-wrap recycling, cardboard baling and recycling, pallet recycling, and battery recycling. We are also analyzing the potential for increasing composting processes. Click here to learn more about sustainability at Food Bank of the Rockies.
Thanks to the expanded capabilities offered by our new Western Slope Etkin Family Distribution Center, which opened in 2023, we were able to add two new counties to our service area: Ouray and San Miguel. We also took care of two different cities who lost a major food pantry by supporting temporary mobile pantries in each community and working with locals to create long-term solutions to provide nourishing food for neighbors facing hunger. The larger facility has also enabled us to increase the number of volunteers we can have helping us daily: In 2023 we logged 87% more volunteer hours than 2022, and are on pace to keep increasing that volume!
Additionally, the Dehydrator Program has been reignited to have several-times the capacity of the previous program and is a fantastic way to engage with volunteers and bring nutritious snacks to all of our Totes of Hope™ recipients. In 2024, our Western Slope team is excited to continue to grow into the new building and take care of rural communities’ unique needs.
The overarching objective for Food Bank of Wyoming, the Casper, Wyoming-based distribution center of Food Bank of the Rockies, is to be present in Wyoming communities with the intent of supporting Hunger Relief Partners, strengthening programs, increasing volunteers, and forming alliances with like-minded organizations.
A few of the ways the Wyoming team will strive to achieve these goals include:
The New FRESH Express Route
In October 2023, Food Bank of Wyoming piloted a new delivery route called the FRESH Express Route. The FRESH Express Route allows Food Bank of Wyoming to deliver fresh produce to 50+ Hunger Relief Partners more frequently and pick up food from local producers such as Vertical Harvest in western Wyoming to distribute locally grown food directly to communities. These new routes are an addition to regular deliveries to Hunger Relief Partners.
We have hired a full-time FRESH Express Route driver and acquired a new over-the-road truck and trailer to reach more partners more frequently with nutritious food. We are excited to launch this new route, which was requested by partners and supplies our neighbors across the state with more fresh produce.
Data Collection and Statewide Assessment
We are excited to announce that we have received a USDA Reach and Resiliency grant in partnership with the WY Department of Family Services, which will be used to help strengthen Food Bank of Wyoming’s capacity to collect, analyze, and interpret food insecurity data across the state. We want to understand our neighbors’ barriers to food access, what types of food would they like to have access to, and what has caused them to seek food assistance. We also hope to discover what additional support our neighbors may need in order to thrive.
With this assessment, we will hopefully better understand the barriers to food access across Wyoming, identify communities where more nutritious food is needed, and partner with other human services organizations to help support neighbors with basic needs.
USDA Local Food Purchasing Agreement Grant
We were recently awarded a USDA Local Food Purchasing Agreement Grant, through which we will be able to purchase more produce and proteins from local and regional producers; expand economic opportunities for local farmers and ranchers; enter into local partnerships to increase the amount of fresh, nutritious food available to Wyomingites experiencing food insecurity; and feed Wyoming food to Wyoming neighbors.
We are able to provide these resources and much more to our neighbors thanks to you, our valued and dedicated supporters. With your backing, we are able to look forward to 2024 with hopeful anticipation and optimism, knowing that wherever there is a need, together we will find an innovative, effective way to meet it. Together, we can.